Monday, November 2, 2009

How will we "write the book on it" in the future?

One of my overused phrases (along with "So anyways") is the phrase "[PERSON] wrote the book on [TOPIC]."

I used the phrase during our company's recent conference for our users, in which we had three presentations in a row on one of our products. I gave the first presentation, and the second was to be given by one of our system engineers, who happened to be the author of the system administration manual for this particular product. So, needless to say, I stated that the second presentation would be given by the person who "wrote the book on" the product in question.

I ALMOST used the phrase in something I posted last Thursday. You'll recall that I said:

I was reading my Facebook during lunch, and one of my Facebook friends (I won't mention the friend's name, but the friend knows a lot about Facebook)....

Actually, I could have said that my friend wrote the book on Facebook (technically, he co-wrote it, but that's splitting hairs), but then everyone would have easily figured out who I was talking about. If I mentioned that my friend is the only person that I know who leaves home for a staycation, then it would be really obvious.

So anyways, I'm not the only person who uses the "wrote the book on" phrase. I'm sure that you can easily find countless examples of people who do this.

But what happens if we eventually DO arrive at the paperless office which people have been predicting for decades? I know that it's been predicted for a while, but there are hints that a paperless environment is actually getting closer to becoming a reality. Now my generation grew up at a time when there were books everywhere, but younger generations are growing up with newer attitudes. One of my former co-workers (she wrote the book on workstation marketing requirements, by the way) rarely uses paper. When we worked together, she would bring her laptop to meetings rather than printing out paper to read in the meeting. (In some ways this is more efficient, especially if a large document is being reviewed, but one could argue that there's an electricity waste. However, if you were going to leave your computer on during the meeting anyway, then there's no net additional usage of electricity.)

My former co-worker is just one example, but there are several factors (storage space, cost, political correctness) that may drive people to use less paper rather than more paper. Another factor is technology, as Internetwork Consulting notes:

Only recently with the excessive size and low cost of disk space, has it become more particle to store files digitally than on paper. In about the space of a cubic foot you can store about 24,319,400 pages of letter sized pages. And when you want to access these files, you don't have to leave your desk and physically sift through an ocean of paper, but type you search into the computer and focus on another task until it's found for you. Another added advantage is that when you are done with the file, you don't have to put it up!

And Internetwork Consulting didn't even consider the cloud advantages of accessing these documents remotely.

But as we move to the fabled paperless office, this means that the items that we refer to as "books" - or, better yet, "papers" - will increasingly be in electronic form. So will we persist in using these terms, devoid of their original meaning? Perhaps the terms will persist - a hitch in your giddy-up has - or perhaps the word "books" will draw a blank stare from future generations.
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